We admit to being a lot of things at AutoSlash. For instance, we recognize that we progressively become geekier about cars, as we think about cars every single day! As we focus on the capability of cars (and our personal capability as drivers), we happily get involved in activities that are not the normal “point A to point B” drives:
- Local track days? We’ve been known to take personal cars to track days and I’m trying to convince AutoSlash founder Jonathan to sponsor a LeMons entry.
- Manufacturer-sponsored events? We’ll happily put down rubber while running figure 8’s at events like Jaguar’s Art of Performance Tour.
- Ice storm? At least one of us is “that guy” in the wide-open parking lot practicing skid recovery.
In a rental car, any of these activities would be classified as racing or stunting, all of which are prohibited uses of a rental (with potential sanctions).
Hertz offered the "Rent A Racer" program in the 1960s but those days are long past. While it's acceptable to drive a rental like ... well, a rental ... it's not considered appropriate to drive a rental like a race car.
Racing as a Prohibited Use
Rental companies today have some fantastic, sporty cars. Hertz has an Adrenaline Collection and Dream Cars Collection at many of their larger airport locations and even has the Tesla Model S at some sites. The great acceleration of a Tesla Model S? That comes in handy when merging into traffic but even Tesla's AutoPilot program (if equipped) will obey speed limits. Sixt also tends to offer some extremely fine European vehicles and American muscle cars in their upper tier models! And you know what? These cars are expected to be on the road and operated at normal speeds. Normal on the unrestricted areas of the Autobahn might be a thrill while normal on the Los Angeles section of Interstate 5 might be closer to 0 mph.
What do this economy car and Mustang GT-H have in common? Seating capacity, luggage capacity, and traffic laws..
The rental car companies have a list of prohibited uses in the rental agreements every renter must accept and those prohibited uses include racing and performing stunts (as well as off-road activities). It’s important to understand these prohibited uses, as there are sizable potential financial ramifications from violating the rental terms given the increase of onboard telematics and camera-based traffic enforcement. Once in a car, everyone has the same rules of the road, from the driver of the compact to the driver of the most exotic vehicle imaginable. In fact, we feel a bit sorry for the individuals you might see on the Las Vegas Strip, who willingly spend a thousand dollars per day to drive a Lamborghini. We could have much more fun experiences with real race instruction at a fraction of the cost!
How Long is the Listing of Prohibited Uses?
Rentals that stay on roadways, obey traffic laws, and are for non-commercial use by the authorized driver are perfectly fine. However, there's a long listing of prohibited uses that's remarkably common across rental car companies. Here are some example policies from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz (the company that once had the “Rent A Racer” program), and National. Prohibited use is one area where the rental car companies plus insurance carriers and credit card companies all agree, which is bad news for a driver caught in a prohibited act. A finding of prohibited use is the fastest way to the rental car company's "Do Not Rent" list.
When Bad Things Happen to Rental Cars
In an era where many cars have GPS devices and almost every passer-by has a cell phone with video capability, what exactly would a finding of prohibited use mean for the renter? If the rental car company deems the rental car contract has been violated:
- Any insurance included in the rental is void, and
- Any insurance paid for as part of the rental is void.
The damage waivers provided by many credit cards? Those are voided as soon as there’s any contractually prohibited use of the rental car (see AmEx and Visa Signature as examples). Personal automobile insurance policies? Those won’t cover any forms of racing or stunts, whether in an official competition or impromptu. Even the Federal Trade Commission reminds renters of actions that can revoke rental car coverage.
Let’s Not Go Racing
Still thinking about heading to your local track day? In an era of nearly ubiquitous cell phones and other recorders, would it surprise you that road courses open to the public like the Nurburgring race track have videographers and photographers who come to record crashes? And would it surprise you that some photographers receive money from the rental car companies for reporting rental cars on the course?
There are hours of Nurburgring crash footage online for those so interested.
I’ve witnessed “bad behavior with rental cars at a racetrack” personally. The year was 2004 and I was racing the road course in Summit Point, West Virginia in an $800 car, thinking if/when the $800 car blew up or got damaged, it would still be worth the scrap metal value. The summer day’s track schedule also had a competition where the announcer mentioned that one participant was driving a rental Ford Mustang.
Foretelling the Internet meme to come, the Mustang driver promptly attempted a high-speed drift, lost control, overcorrected, and went off the course. What happened to the Mustang’s driver? Well, he walked away from the crash but there are a few things we know based on our experience with rental car companies:
- He ended up paying for the Mustang unless he participated in massive insurance fraud, and
- He’s still on Hertz’s (plus Dollar's and Thrifty's) Do Not Rent list.
Have the need for speed but don’t want to use your everyday car? That’s a very wise choice. Don't want to be like the Las Vegas Lamborghini drivers stuck in traffic? We don't blame you.
There are opportunities to take exotic vehicles on road courses and ovals to the extent of one's capability. There are many “driving experiences” or “racing experiences” listed at many racetracks. Some are short sections of parking lots, some are laps following a pace car, and some involve driver training and allow drivers on courses unfettered. Any reputable driving experience would offer insurance waivers to cover incidents like putting the car into the wall; personal automobile insurance is not going to help and everyone signs an indemnity waiver clearing themselves and everyone else before getting on the track. On a good driving experience like the ones offered by Porsche, you can even learn skills to help with everyday driving!
While a rental car should always be considered a conveyance, a racing experience expands opportunities and is very likely less than the $1,000 Lamborghini daily rental!
Has your need for speed been satisfied? We’re always happy to help you find the best possible rate on a traditional rental car for safe, happy motoring on the paved road of your choice!